A walk through Battir
The past week was a mix of emotion and placement. The first place was of beauty.
We went by bus through Beit Jala and across one of the Israeli roads that cut across the West Bank to get to the ancient village of Battir. It is a little piece of heaven, and a place under threat. To get a small sense of what it is like here, I found a great Youtube clip:
HLT staff member Marwan led us around to the views down to the valley, which are lined with agriculture in the layered grooves of the hills making up the village. We walked along an aqueduct that brings fresh water through the area, even allowing the villagers enough water to wash in a public bath.
At the bottom of this valley are the tracks of what is now the Jerusalem to Tel Aviv/Jaffa train line, which no longer stops in Battir. At one time this was used by the villagers to market their fresh foods to travellers in either direction. In modern times, the train passes through, and is distinct from the village itself.
Battir lies on the 'Green Line', the armistice line drawn in the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and its neighbours following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. A well written narrative of the impact of the break down of the British Mandate period and the start of the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians is described by a native of Battir: http://electronicintifada.net/content/sixty-years-ago-battir/7482. Battir is straddled between Areas B and C, both areas have full Israeli military control but area B has Palestinian administrative control. The village is isolated from neighbouring Palestinian village Al-Walaja, and surrounded by the wall and two Israeli West Bank settlements. Their available agricultural land is diminishing with the increasing Israeli demands for security, enlargement, and commercialisation.
We relaxed in the gardens and the trees of Battir, before sitting down for a dinner specially made for us overlooking the valley.
What will happen to this place and these people should the occupation bring walls and bulldozers in the name of 'security'?